December 22, 2019- Advent 22, Luke 22- Judas, the Last Supper, Peter Denies Jesus, Jesus is Handed Over to the Council

upper room

Read Luke 22.

Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. Unfortunately for Judas he had a rather notorious role in the story of Jesus’ suffering and death.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. Luke 22:1-3 (ESV)

The Son of Man, Creator of the Universe, betrayed for a few coins.

The disciples come to the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover:

And He, (Jesus) said to them,I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. Luke 22:15-23 (ESV)

Jesus says this IS my body.  This IS my blood.  A mystery to be sure, but a mystery to be taken at His world.  We may not understand how the elements of bread and wine become Jesus’ body and blood, but the word is means is.  Given and shed for us so that we may have life in Him.

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:24:31 (ESV)

We do not decide who believes, who stands, who falls, or who is accorded what position in God’s kingdom.  God decides.  Satan asked to sift Peter like wheat.  Peter, who denied Jesus 3 times was forgiven and made to stand in witness to Christ.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:31-34 (ESV)

Peter meant well, but he could not stand in his own power. None of us can stand unless the Lord makes us stand.

And he (Jesus) came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46 (ESV)

Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering would be removed from Him.  We know that it was not.  He had to take the cup of suffering and drink it to the dregs- He was arrested, stripped of His clothes, humiliated, spit on and hung on a Roman cross.  He could have said no to the way of the cross at any time.

Yet Jesus chose to come into this world for the very purpose of taking the cup of God’s wrath and allowing it to be poured out on Him instead of on us, as our transgressions deserve.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” Luke 22:66-71 (ESV)

Lord, forgive us when we forget that it is only by Your overwhelming love for us and Your grace that we can stand and believe in You.  You came to redeem us and save us from our sins.  You bind our wounds.  You forgive us. You feed us with your Own Body and Blood.  Thank you, Jesus.  Stay with us and keep us in these evil days, until Your return.

December 21, 2019 Advent 21, Luke 21- The Widow’s Mite, Destruction, War, and the Coming of the Son of Man

widow's mite

Read Luke 21.

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box,  and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)

At this time of year we are often concerned with giving gifts.  Most of us are giving out of our abundance.  It’s neither good nor necessary to give lavish gifts we can’t afford to people who already have too much stuff to begin with.  It is good to give generously and to those who have a genuine need.

God doesn’t need anything of ours.  Even if we were to have the resources to build a fine cathedral or to give large sums of money to the church, we don’t give in order to earn favor with God.  Jesus has done that for us as a gift.

Giving is an act of faith.  Some of us are capable of giving much, but others of us can only give a widow’s mite.  The motive behind our giving is our faith.  Do we trust God with all that we have and all that we are? (the answer is no, we can’t…)

The rest of the chapter is not very cheery.  Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and of the things that will come to pass in the end times.

And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” Luke 21:5-9 (ESV)

It can be said that there have not been too many periods of time that the world (especially the Middle East) has been peaceful.  Since Jesus walked the earth there have been countless empires that have risen and fallen.  There have been wars, skirmishes, tumults and takeovers, coups, assassinations, intrigues and so much more man-made evil and violence. We long for peace and we pray for justice and mercy, only to see more wars, corrupt governments and injustice go merrily along.

We hear those who come to the table with false gospels- the false gospel of prosperity, the false belief that there is salvation in “social justice,” the name-it-and-claim-it, “best life now” self-help preachers, or the cults led by false prophets such as Jim Jones or David Koresh who claimed to be God, but were anything but. Jesus has warned us against those pseudo-christs that cannot save.

Christian people will face persecution for speaking out for Jesus.  In some places believers are martyred simply for standing up for Jesus and not backing down from their faith..  Jesus has warned us about this also:

This will be your opportunity to bear witness.  Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.  You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But not a hair of your head will perish.  By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:13-19 (ESV)

The Holy Spirit will give us the words to say if we are persecuted for our faith.  Jesus is faithful.  In the grand scheme of things, He has promised to keep us faithful to Him.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25-28 (ESV)

There will always be war and dissent in this world, at least until Jesus returns.  The natural disasters, wars and other unrest will only escalate until that day. Yet our hope, Jesus is coming to redeem us and remake our world. For believers, this will be a day of great joy.

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36 (ESV)

As we come closer and closer to the celebration of Christmas- the Incarnation, Jesus coming to earth as a helpless child, we remember that Advent is also about being ready and awake for Jesus’ return.  He is the One Who holds us up and makes us able to stand. We pray that in Christ we will stand firm and that we will join the everlasting celebration on that day when He returns in glory.

December 20, 2019-Advent 20, Luke 20- The Authority of Jesus, Wicked Tenants, Taxes, the Resurrection, and the Son of David

Read Luke 20.

Jesus-and-the-pharisees

One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up  and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”  He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”  And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”  So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Luke 20:1-8 (ESV)

The establishment was never a big fan of Jesus. Jesus, Who taught with authority and healed the sick and raised the dead was a threat to their power over the people.

The baptism of John was for repentance, a preparation for the coming of the One Who came to wash away the sins of the world with His blood.  John was indeed a prophet, and his birth and his mission had long since been foretold- the one who was to prepare a highway in the wilderness for the coming of the Son of Man.

The religious authorities were blind to the fact that it was the Son of Man teaching them.

Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants.  The master sends one servant to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard and the tenants beat him and sent him away.  He sends another servant, who is also beaten and sent away, and then a third who is beaten and driven off.  Then the master sends his son, thinking that the tenants will respect his son.

Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’? (Psalm 118:22)

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” Luke 20:13-18 (ESV)

 

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius.Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. Luke 20:19-26 (ESV)

Nobody likes to pay taxes.  The religious authorities were trying to trick Jesus into saying that it was OK not to pay tax so they could get him in trouble with the Roman authorities.  Jesus confounds them by telling them that yes, we should give the governing authorities their due.

The Sadducees tried to trick Jesus into denying the resurrection of the dead by posing a scenario where a woman is married to each one of seven brothers.  “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection,” they ask.

Jesus explains to them that the life after the resurrection isn’t like life on earth.

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.”For they no longer dared to ask him any question. Luke 20:34-40 (ESV)

Jesus warned about the corruption of the religious leadership on many occasions.

And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Luke 20:45-47 (ESV)

There is a good and useful place for authority, both spiritual and temporal.  But the abuse of authority is harmful to both temporal governance and promoting spiritual truth.  When those who are in authority abuse their authority or hide the truth, those in their care suffer.

Jesus is indeed the cornerstone on which all is built upon.

Lord, we know that when we fall on You we will be broken, but we trust that You will heal us and remake us in Your image.  We pray that we will not defy You and be crushed by your judgment, but that we would believe and trust in You, for You have the words of eternal life.

December 19, 2019- Advent 19, Luke 19- To Seek and Save the Lost, Faithful Service, the King Comes to Jerusalem, and Cleans Out the Temple

 

zaccheus

Read Luke 19.

Zacchaeus was a rich man- a tax collector, who had likely come about his fortune from fleecing the flock.  Yet something compelled Zacchaeus to seek out Jesus.  We learn in the Gospel of John (John 6:44) that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him.  The Greek word for draw (helkó) is a little more intense, having the connotation of dragging something incapable of moving itself.  We are given the gift of faith. It is given from outside of us and outside of our will.

Zacchaeus was a short man, so he climbed a tree to see Jesus better over the crowd. It must have been a sight to see this tiny little man, dressed in his finery, climbing a tree to get a better view.

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:5-9 (ESV)

Time after time it seems to be lost on the religious authorities that Jesus came precisely to name, and claim and save sinners.

In the Parable of the Ten Minas, Jesus teaches us about being trustworthy.  Faith is inextricably linked with action.  When we believe, we act, just as when we light a fire there is heat as well as light involved.

Do we really trust God that His provision is enough? Do we believe Jesus is Who He says He is, enough that we can be generous with the gifts He has given us and invest those gifts in others?

‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Luke 19:26 (ESV) 

In Christ we have been given the calling to invest and freely give from the gifts He has first given us.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 (ESV)

Jesus comes to Jerusalem on His way to Calvary.  As Zechariah the prophet foretold, He rides in on the colt of a donkey.

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’”  So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them.  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”  And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:28-40 (ESV)

The very stones would cry out praise to the living God, if the people had not been shouting.  The people may have mistaken Jesus for a military king or a bread king, but they didn’t see Him as the King.  Even His disciples didn’t get it that His kingdom wasn’t about power or free bread, but something much more far reaching.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, He wept over the city.  Jerusalem, who should have seen Him as the King, the Son of David long awaited, crucified Him instead.  Jerusalem, the long suffering city,  would face destruction and judgment in AD 70.

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,  saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 (ESV)

Upon Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem (lest we believe the myth that Jesus never got angry,) He visited the Temple, only to find that it was inhabited by those trying to take advantage of pilgrims by charging exorbitant prices for money exchanges and animals for sacrifice.

And he (Jesus) entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words. Luke 19:45-49 (ESV)

Jesus does bring us peace, but He does not leave the world unchanged.

As the celebration of Jesus’ birth draws nearer, do we see how He is preparing us for the world to come when He returns?

Will He find us with our lamps burning bright, awaiting Him with joy?

Lord, be with us and transform our hearts.  Give us the faith to seek, knock and ask for Your provision in all things.

December 18, Advent 18, Luke 18- Justice, the Faith of Children, the Fulfillment of the Prophets

Suffer-Children-Come-Unto-Me-Urruchi

Read Luke 18

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8 (ESV)

It’s easy in today’s world to be cynical and to give up, especially when we face disappointment, broken promises and the effects of the failures of broken systems every day.  Often we have to call and complain about poor service or wrong pricing or other issues in the course of doing business and going about our lives.  The squeaky wheel does in fact get the grease.  The more that the widow pestered the judge, she wore out his patience. It was easier for him to just give her what she wanted instead of enduring the constant pestering.

God is not like the unjust judge or the customer service department at the cable company. We don’t have to pester or threaten Him. He knows our prayers before we pray them.  He arranges for our provision in ways we need and that are best for us-  even when we don’t know our needs well enough to bring those needs to God in prayer.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

Martin Luther taught that we are all beggars before God: The phrase, “Wir sind pettler, hoc est verum” (We are beggars, this is true) is said to be his last words.  The apostle James teaches us that if we break one little tiny bit of God’s Law we are guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

Faith is not just knowing that we are beggars, but also trusting in  the One Who took our sins to the cross to forgive our sins and to cover us with His righteousness and goodness.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:15-17 (ESV)

Children find it easier to trust than adults.  We become cynical and jaded, but Jesus calls us to trust Him.  Even when the news is bad, the road is hard, and there seems to be no hope, Jesus is there with us, walking with us through our trials.  He wants us to bring children to Him from the very beginning, so that they will learn to cling to Him from the very beginning.  This is why we bring infants to the baptismal font, to the means of grace that God makes available for us, regardless of our age or stage of life.

Jesus, seeing that he (the rich young ruler) had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:24-30 (ESV)

The rich young ruler had fooled himself into thinking that he had obeyed the Law all his life.  Unfortunately it is not possible for anyone to do that.  If we could earn or buy our way to eternal life, why would the Son of God need to suffer and die to deliver us from the eternal consequences of our sins?

It is true that there is no buying or earning our way into eternal life.  Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6)

The disciples still hadn’t quite gotten what it was that Jesus came to do, even though He tells them again that He must die, and that He will rise from the dead as the prophets foretold.

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34 (ESV)

The blind beggar on the road to Jericho cried out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus did have mercy on him, and restored his sight.

And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. Luke 18:39-43 (ESV)

Lord, we confess that we are beggars- blind, flawed and unable to believe in You, save by your gift of faith and the means of grace You give us in baptism, Holy Communion and in hearing the Word of God preached to us.  We pray that You would heal us, forgive us and give us our sight so that we may see you and that we would patiently and faithfully await Your glorious return.

December 17, 2019-Advent 17, Luke 17- Temptation, Forgiveness, Unworthy Servants, and the Kingdom Will Come

Read Luke 17

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Luke 17:1-4 (ESV)

Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally to us. The human heart seeks retribution and vengeance. But Jesus says to us, forgive. Forgive others the way that He forgives us- over and over and over again.

Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10 (ESV)

None of us no matter how we might try, can serve God fully and completely. But we can only serve God as He equips us to do. We are not justified by what we do, rather, God enables us to do the good works that He has planned for us.

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:15-19 (ESV)

God provides for all – rain, sun, harvest, livelihood, healing- but not everyone sticks around to thank Him for it. In the story of the Ten Lepers, only the Samaritan- the outcast, the one outside of the family of God- sticks around long enough to thank Jesus for his healing.

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:26 -37 (ESV)

In this season of Advent we prepare for the Incarnation of Jesus- Emmanuel, God with us. We also look forward to Him coming to earth again in glory to judge the living from the dead.

There are many systems of eschatology (the study of the end times.) The understanding of the eschaton (the end of days) that is most congruent with what Jesus and the apostles teach in the Bible is called amillennialism. We take Jesus at His word. He is coming back, and He will remake both heaven and earth. Sin, death and Satan will be no more.

We don’t know when Jesus will return, but for those who are His, it will be a day of great joy.

Lord, prepare us for your return. Create in us clean hearts that are bound firmly in faith in You. Forgive us for our many sins and remind us of our baptisms, where we became Your children, marked with the cross of Christ forever. Keep us faithful to You now and forever.

December 16, 2019- Advent 16, Luke 16- Is This Our Best Life Now?

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Read Luke 16.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:10:13 (ESV)

We are all too familiar with the concept of quid pro quo.  In this world’s economy, one hand washes the other.  Favors are given and received.  Influence is used to enrich one party, usually at the expense of another, and so the cycle of politics and corruption continues.

Jesus reminds us that it is not possible to serve God and money.  In God’s economy it is God Who freely gives.  Apart from Him we do not have the ability to earn our own livelihood, nor to give to others. If all we care about is today’s greedy gain, then we forfeit the better, eternal provision that God provides us.

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. Luke 16:14-16 (ESV)

The Pharisees fail to understand that Jesus didn’t do away with the Law, He fulfilled it.  We have no way to justify ourselves apart from Him.  The Law still stands, and we are still subject to it. It is only by the grace of God in Christ that we are given salvation, a gift we cannot earn or deserve.

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16: 22-31 (ESV)

Jesus does not teach us that faith in Him will lead to worldly success, a buff bod, or a hefty bank account. Jesus does not go by the quid pro quo system that is so prevalent in our society.  We have nothing to offer Him.  He freely gives and provides for us without an expectation that we can do anything for Him in return.  What can we give to the Creator of the universe anyway? Even our very best efforts are tainted with our sins and ineptitude and failure.  Jesus teaches that in this world He is with us, but even so, we will have trials and we will suffer.  Lazarus did not have his “best life now” on this earth.  The rich man did have good things here on earth- so much so that he neglected what really matters.

This world is temporary. No much time or money or effort we invest in anything is going to last. This is why Jesus tells us now, while the day is today, to store our treasures in heaven where they will last.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:32-34 (ESV)

Jesus is our “best life.”  Even though we may not be successful or important or influential according to the world’s standards, in Christ we have treasure with Him, where our hearts are.

Dear Jesus, remind us always that You are our treasure, and that in You our best life is yet to come.  We await Your return, when You will make all things new, and suffering and crying and mourning will be no more.